Today’s article contains another Kingdom write-up from my Shards Of Divinity Campaign. This one isn’t quite as developed as the others (but the last time I said that, I wrote 11300 words and it became one of the most developed of the Kingdoms. I don’t expect history to repeat itself, but you never know….
Postscript: 11,270 words later…. If you want to know why this article was posted late, that word-count should be all the answer you need!
What if all the Merchant’s Guilds and Trade Unions in the world decided that this nobility malarkey looked like a pretty good deal (for the nobles) and got together to form their own independent kingdom? The struggle between organized Labor and Big Business has been a central pivot-point within the backdrop of politics in Australia for longer than I’ve been alive. While parts of it I don’t know very well, parts of it have been experienced first-hand.
Against this backdrop, throw in a superficial understanding of middle American society of the 1950s and 60s, stir with influences as diverse as the Stonecutters from The Simpsons, the fiction of Robert Heinlein – especially The Man Who Sold The Moon, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, a few chapters of Time Enough For Love, and the latter third of Citizen Of The Galaxy – and surround it all with primary sources such Raymond E Feist’s Rise Of A Merchant Prince, and you end up with the Ineodolus Imperascora. Oh yes, and throw in some of Anne McCafferey’s Dragon stories as well.
There was a time when the populace of the Ineodolus Imperascora were all parts of other Kingdoms, isolated merchants and businessmen who worked for a living, buying and selling goods. When humanity escaped the destruction of Paradise, most of them founded small communities and isolated households wherever they could find somewhere suitable to settle down that wasn’t already claimed by something large and hairy / furry / scaly / elven – or overrun by something smaller with similar characteristics and greater numbers. Many of these communities failed to survive, but about 1/4, or maybe 1/3, of them managed to hold on, learning the arts of defense in a cruel world the hard way.
Others found that they enjoyed wandering from community to community and became Gypsies. These became, for a hundred years or so, vital elements of the overall society, as they travelled from place to place trading and learning, bartering expertise in one skill (acquired in some other settlement) for an education in another, and they were welcomed as such. Their trading was patently fair, they demanded only a fair price for their wares, and became used to living off the land as they went.
Over time, these settlements and communities grew, gathering in survivors of other failed settlements. From somewhere – no-one knows quite where – the concept of profit entered the collective social consciousness. Some of the larger communities began to send out their own buyers for the goods they needed, bypassing the gypsy network entirely. At the same time, they began to become more possessive of the improvements they had made and their possessions, and the gypsy habit of taking whatever they needed whenever and wherever they found it began to grow irritating. After a century of welcome and another century or two of increasing hostility and resentment, most of the gypsies were forced to settle down and integrate with one community or another.
The Merchant’s Associations & Guilds
Nonetheless, the old connections remained. They had their own language, and would still sell or trade amongst themselves more readily and on more favorable terms than with the surrounding community. Over the next 200 years, as communities prospered and grew, the mercantile demands within those societies also grew, as did the number of merchants who satisfied those needs. Various civic organizations and merchant’s associations were founded here and there for business owners to gather socially in that period.
It is claimed that a blacksmith named Malleus Ferrabius was the first developed the notion of a merchant’s association purely for those of his own craft, some 562 years ago, though the idea was swiftly copied – so swiftly that many other guilds disputed the claim of the Faberrarius et Fabri Gildam (Smiths & Crafters Guild). Both these tiers of organization welcomed others engaged in the same practices into their ranks.
Initially, these existed as purely social groups, but it wasn’t long before they grew into more significant organizations. It began with the complaint of a Furniture Maker about the qualifications of a particular apprentice who had come to work for him; the resulting discussion let to the establishment of a working group within the Lignorum Gildam (Carpentry Guild) who developed a set of professional standards and formalized a process for the promotion of apprentices and journeymen.
Several of the participants made excited reports to their local Merchant’s Organizations, even before the working group had completed its work, and those passed the notion on to their own Guilds, and Professional Standards seemed to mushroom throughout the Shared Kingdoms within all crafts virtually simultaneously.
The Standards Of Measurement
The next step in the evolutionary process that would lead inevitably to The Ineodolus Imperascora was made by the Pistoribus et Panis Gildam (Baker’s & Breadmaker’s Guild). Tithing was an ongoing problem for many members of the Gildam because while the King set the tithes, the local Nobility controlled the standards of weights used to measure those tithes. When the Noble wanted more, he simply shaved a little off his weights or had a new measuring stick crafted – one where the marks were a little closer together. As a professional body, the Gildam sought an audience with the King for their representatives and persuaded him to standardize the weights and measures throughout the Kingdom on the basis that the Nobility were undermining the King’s control of the nation.
This was the first time that a professional guild exercised any form of political authority, and since it was successful, this was another idea that quickly followed. For the next fifty years, the political buzzword was Standardization – of fees, of prices, of weights, and lengths, and volumes, of coin values – in fact of just about everything.
Quite often, the product of one guild was a tool or a component used by another in the exercise of their craft. It started with a dispute between the shipwrights, carpenters, builders, and smiths. When the Smiths had standardized the lengths of their nails, they had roughly averaged the demands of each of the three guilds who utilized their products, and none were overly satisfied. Standardization had been taken too far.
Each of the three petitioned the King of one particular city-state to have the standard length changed to accommodate their requirements; the smiths viewed this as an attack on their autonomy. The King responded by locking the representatives all four in a room to sort the problem out. If the negotiators had been different people, the outcome would have radically changed the course of history within the future Shared Kingdoms; but agreement to implement three different standards was quickly achieved, and the negotiators moved on to talk about other subjects and discovered many areas of common interest.
The process of guilds talking to each other at more than the local level had begun, and the result was the founding of an overarching organization to deal with disputes and problems arising between the different member guilds, the Conlegorium Commercorum (Guilds Of Commerce).
Then arose the Galliamic Empire, and the Conlegorium was given authority over the Guilds and became more than a forum for negotiations and inter-guild relations. The president of the Guilds was given noble title within the Empire (to be honest, a Noble of the Empire was appointed to the position by Imperial Decree). This Noble, Thesius Denigrata (not his real name) forcibly unified the Guilds.
Birth of a Kingdom
When the Galliamic Empire fell, and the Shared Kingdoms arose in the aftermath, it was a small step for the Conlegorium to vacate the presidency of their association and elect one of their own to the post – who promptly declared the reformation of the Conlegorium into an independent Kingdom within the bounds of the Shared Kingdoms and himself its ruler. Justinium Immensam I was the founder of the Ineodolus Imperascora.
His reasoning was that the merchants had their own society, with their own practices and etiquette; they had their own language; they had their own internal hierarchy; they were used to dispensing justice internally within their Guilds; and the interests of their subordinate organizations needed to be heard as an equal voice to those gathered in the council chambers.
How much of the above is truth and how much is fiction? No-one knows for certain. Many records were lost in the fall of the Galliamic Empire, which was almost as catastrophic an event as the original expulsion from Paradise – which may or may not have happened as written. Certainly, many of the records and orally-retained histories of other Kingdoms disagree with this account; but the leadership of the Ineodolus Imperascora are not interested in learning the truth of the matter, deeming it an irrelevancy at best and an attempt to undermine their power at worst. They would rather be able to sneer at others for their ignorance in believing something different to them – or so historians from the other Kingdoms would have the public believe.
The Ineodolus Imperascora is the only kingdom to employ the concept of Dual Citizenship. It is the only Kingdom which sells citizenship to its members, and accepts anyone willing to pay. They do not require the forswearing of other political relationships that may already exist, though one can do so if one chooses. In many ways, they are still more of a professional organization and lobby group offering free or discounted services to their members than they are a Kingdom. In other ways, they resemble a trade union of local merchants.
The merchants of the Shared Kingdoms believe that wealth is the best measure of capability, and therefore that wealth should equal power. EVERYTHING in this realm is for sale, usually at exorbitant prices.
In practice, the internal structure of the Ineodolus Imperascora is that of a Democratic Plutocracy with overtones of Plutocratic Democracy. And if those terms are unfamiliar to you, bear with me and all will become clear!
A Title is a reflection of one’s mercantile possessions, as explained in more detail in subsequent sections. Buy a business and a Noble Title comes with the deed. These titles have no direct relationship to the level of authority within the Kingdom; those are a function of Internal and External Guild Hierarchy.
It is entirely acceptable for someone to be 3/5ths of a Count on account of a 60% share of one source of revenue. To claim a full title, they must also acquire smaller stakes totaling 40% stake in other revenue sources. Below 1/100th part, shares are considered too small to be reckoned as a portion of noble title.
Layers of citizenship
As with many societies, the Ineodolus Imperascora has a stratified structure of citizenship.
The lowest level is occupied by the Servus (Servant) class. These receive substandard food, substandard lodgings poor-quality clothing, and very little more. Once a month, it is traditional to give each a silver coin to be spent as they wish, for luck. Once per year, good service may be rewarded with an additional gold coin, many will receive a second silver coin, and a few will receive nothing more than the monthly silver they would have received anyway. From these funds, they are expected to purchase anything else they may need, and to provide themselves with what luxuries they can afford.
The second tier is the place of the Artefix (Worker) class, who must be paid for their labors, and who must pay taxes apon that wealth. Pay scales are fixed by each Guild on an established basis depending on hours of work, difficulty of work, age, skill required, years of experience, etc. Payment is made each eighthday, less taxes which are paid on behalf of the Artefix by their employer. There is little scope for variation within each pay grade, though some employers will reward exceptional workers with bonuses. The employer also provides food and may provide lodgings, though these are frequently obtained separately as rented premises; if lodgings are provided, a fixed deduction is made from the Artefix’s payment, again according to Guild rules. The Guilds also determine what clothing and tools must be provided by the employer; everything else is the responsibility and choice of the individual. Many Artefix save, dreaming of the day when they can open their own businesses.
The third tier is occupied by those of minority citizenship – Minoritate Citatum. These are Discipulae (apprentices) (refer to the section on Education, below). The chief difference between an Artefix and a Discipulae who is a Minoritate Citatum is an obligation to educate the Discipulae in the basics of the business within a certain time frame, and to obtain for them a journeyman’s position and gift them with the tools (both literal and metaphoric) required for them to occupy that position according to Guild guidelines at the end of that apprenticeship, provided that they are able to demonstrate sufficient skill according to the established professional standards of their occupation. They are paid, clothed, and housed in the same way as Artefix and at the same pay scale, and are expected to divide their time between education in their craft and earning revenue for the master to defray his expenses. Each apprentice is named as a Minoritate Citatum on the rolls of the Guild of his master, who pays dues on his behalf, and is answerable to them for their treatment. Taking one or more Discipulae is a big deal for the business owner, depending on the industry; it can easily cost him up to 100 gold a year, not counting the cost in spoiled and ruined materials and damaged tools. Failed apprentices are released from all future obligations to the teacher who took them on, and are free to seek employment elsewhere as an Artefix. If they are fortunate, they may even find a second teacher who will take them on as an apprentice – though that may reset the clock on their apprenticeship, depending on the terms arranged with the new teacher.
Within the fourth tier are the Iteromines (Journeymen), who receive Medius Civium (Middle Citizenship). These are apprentices who are entrusted to accept commissions of their own, and who may leave the shelter of their teacher and make their own way as apprentices gaining experience in their trade. It is as Journeymen that the investment made in training the Iteromine in his early years begins to pay off for the teacher who took a chance on them; for the next 10 years, 5% of the journeyman’s income is paid directly (annually) to the teacher. The Iteromine is also responsible for paying his own Guild Dues. At various times, the journeyman may return to the tutelage of his master; refining and developing his skills. Each day so spent adds a further eightday to the period of obligation of the Journeyman. When the Master, based on the income earned by the journeyman and the commendations received from satisfied customers of Noble Rank, adjudges the Iteromines to be of a fit standard, he may put forward his name for examination as a Master. All expenses of this examination are to be met by the Master, so he does not want to do so more often than necessary. On the other hand, it is in his best interests to elevate the Iteromine as quickly as possible as doing so increases the earning power of the journeyman while he is still obligated to the Master.
When an Iteromines graduates and becomes a Dominus, he also acquires his full citizenship, entering the sixth stratum of society. The Dominus who educated him is then obligated to pay all the establishment costs for the former journeyman to establish his own business if the journeyman so requests, or he may sell his existing practice to the journeyman if he is preparing for retirement. Any such investment must be repaid over the ten years following the completion of the Iteromine decade of repayment, plus 1% of the Dominus’ income during this interval. At the end of this period, the now-established Dominus is free of obligation to his former teacher. By this time, he should have his own crop of Discipulae ready to graduate to Iteromine status, if they have not already done so. Each new Discipula is an investment in future prosperity; the more journeymen a Dominus has, the greater his income, and income is what matters most in the Ineodolus Imperascora. All told, a Dominus has spent between 25 and 30 years of his life beholden to a Master within his craft before his debts are cleared; since apprenticeships normally commence somewhere between the ages of ten and twenty years, the Dominus is aged between 40 and 45 years before achieving full independence.
Where a business owner has not graduated through the Discipulae-Iteromines-Dominus hierarchy but has simply established his own mercantile or commercial operation, he holds dual citizenship. Most members of the Ineodolus Imperascora hold this type of citizenship, which is to say that they pay taxes and tithes, and are responsible to, some other government in relation to everything except their business practice. These business people are barred from certain ranks within the Guilds and therefore within the Ineodolus Imperascora overall, and constitute the fifth tier of society. They must still adhere to all guild regulations in terms of price, quality, etc.
Only about 1/5th are full citizens, who not only pay dues to the Guilds and to their local bodies, but also pay taxes to the Master Trader. In return for this allegiance, they are eligible for any office within the realm, as are any dual citizens who have passed through the full educational structure.
Some business owners adopt a lesser form of membership (with lower dues, fewer obligations, and greater independence from Guild Rules) known as an Aggregare Ciutatem (Associate Citizenship). This enables them to purchase from and bargain with full citizens at citizen’s rates, but grants none of the other perks and benefits of membership of a Guild. Such members are considered to be equal in rank with Iteromines and part of the fifth tier within society.
And some traders and merchants ignore the guilds entirely and operate as Independents. They may pay local association dues for the civic goodwill that results, but otherwise adhere to the policies, laws, and tax regimes of another government. These are considered equivalent to Discipulae in that they have no say over the operations and policies of the Ineodolus Imperascora but are recognized as business owners nevertheless – however unqualified and amateurish. Between the obligations that come with citizenship, this choice is just as viable for an individual as any other; they lose the protection and guarantees of the guild, and a certain customer base as a result, but have far fewer drains on their profits.
The first five layers of society constitute the bulk of the citizens of the Ineodolus Imperascora. Only members of the rank of Dominus may aspire to authority within the Guilds, and it is the Guilds which form the political leadership of the Realm. Accordingly, we must now turn our attention to the internal hierarchy within a Guild.
Internal Guild Hierarchy
At the lowest level within a guild are the local associations, including Aggregare Ciutatem, Servusi and Artefixi. These enjoy the protection and administration of the guild, and can bring grievances against guild members to the attention of more senior members of the Guild for arbitration, but have no authority within the Guild.
Above them are the Gildambrum (Guildsmen), the actual dues-paying members of the guild. These include Discipulae, Iteromines, and Dominusi.
Once per year, the senior members of the Guild meet to elect new Gildamdux (Guild Leaders) from amongst the Dominusi. The Gildamdux select Dominusi to represent the Guild elsewhere, especially within the overall administration of the Ineodolus Imperascora. The Gildamdux spend the revenues accrued by the Guild, set Guild policy, conduct examinations of prospective Dominusi, maintain Guild offices, investigate offences against the Guild and its members, prosecute and punish the offenders, and – most importantly – compensate the hardworking Master craftsmen within the guild who pass up opportunities to earn additional income in order to devote time to Guild administration.
These elections are something akin to a high-stakes poker game. Each Gold Piece that a Dominus pledges to the Guild (win or lose) is worth one vote. The first round of voting is secret, and results only in the announcement of the size of the highest bid – meaning that every other Dominus aspiring to the position doesn’t know who is leading, only that it’s not them, and the difference between their pledge and the current leading bid. A round of private politicking follows, alliances are formed and broken, businesses sold for immediate capital and bought by those with longer term ambitions, and so on.
This is followed by a second round of ‘voting'; even the current leader will be obliged to add to his commitment, since others will wish to not only exceed what he has already committed but also whatever sum they think he may commit in the second round. Election strategies have varied through the years; a dominant showing early may scare off rivals, or exhaust resources prematurely. After this second round, the current rankings and votes are announced, and any who are not within 10% of the highest total are obliged to cede the position. Another round of private politicking follows, as leaders attempt to shore up their position, undermine rivals, and prevent the coalescing of opposition behind a rival. A third round of ‘voting’ ensues, with the winners declared as final – unless there is a tie, in which case only that fact is announced, leaving contenders uncertain of how much more they need to commit. It may transpire – it has, from time to time – that the leader after the second round is someone so controversial or disliked that spontaneous coalitions will form with the express purpose of voting someone else – anyone else – into office.
The bulk of the Guild treasury derives from these pledges, which must be honored, win or lose – and it is under the control of the people “elected”. Cutting your losses early and conserving your resources for a future bid can be a winning strategy in the long run. A proven track record in office is also a must – if you succeed in increasing the fortunes of those not elected with effective policies, those improved fortunes are likely to back you next time around. If your leadership fails, you are more likely to create coalitions opposing you. Guild politics is cut-throat.
If there’s something hauntingly familiar about these proceedings, its because there should be. In western democracies, money is raised for elections and then expended on advertising and counter-advertising, but it often still comes down to who has the bigger budget (all other factors being even close to equal). Consider the race for the US Presidency – there is an anonymous phase (when people are deciding whether or not to run); there is a weeding-out phase (aka the primaries), when candidates are seeking the nomination; and there is the actual contest against political rivals for the office. The only difference is that instead of blowing this money on nothing of practical value, the Guilds stick it in their treasury. If the US was run the same way, it might not have the budget deficits that it currently ‘enjoys’. Or it might make no difference. This is just fantasy gaming, after all.
The winner is named the Merchant Prince of the Guild for the next year, the man (or woman) with the authority and resources to dominate guild policy for the next year, to agree the biggest contracts and commissions, the wealthiest and most successful practitioner within his Guild – for now. From the moment they are elected, the Merchant Prince’s primary goal is ensuring his reelection twelve months hence. (There’s more on the consequences of this political structure in a subsequent section).
Other positions within the Guild of note are Thesaurarius Gildex (Guild Treasurer), Gildam Concilarium (Guild Councellor), and various positions of Regionalis Caputildex (Regional Guild Leaders). These are all appointed by the Merchant Prince, usually from amongst his supporters – indeed, it may have been promises of position that gained their support in the first place.
External Guild Hierarchy
In theory, all Merchant Princes are equal in rank and authority. In practice, things are not so clear-cut. Remember, wealth equals power in this society. It follows that there is actually an unofficial hierarchy of Guilds, one that is often dependant on factors external to the Guild itself and not amenable to the control of the Merchant Princes. These factors, in their usual order of significance, are:
- Demand – the more demand there is for the production of a particular guild, the more influential that Guild is. The Wigmaker’s Guild rarely dominates. In troubled times, the Arms & Armourer’s Guild (who used to be part of the Blacksmiths Guild until they split in a messy squabble) generally rises to the fore.
- Profitability – the more profitable a particular type of commerce is, the more influential the Guild. Profitability means either industries only of interest to the wealthy and nobility who can make substantial profits from a low-volume industry, or industries who make a modest profit from a great number of transactions.
- Membership – when the preceding factors cancel out or produce a state of equality, the actual number of members of the guild becomes significant – because a large guild only needs to acquire an additional GP from each member to be able to financially bury a smaller guild.
- Cost – Strange as it may seem, the Ineodolus Imperascora does respect investment in the future, even if current returns are not as high as might be desired. So it follows that when breaking any remaining ties, the industry with the highest production cost per unit of production (whatever that might be) is the more respected. Thus the Goldsmiths outrank the Silversmiths – but not the Platinum Smiths, whose level of demand is nowhere near as high.
- Titles – Finally, if all else is balanced, Guilds may compare titles, because even thought they mean nothing internally, they are considered significant to outsiders – and political relations can have a direct impact on the preceding factors.
The Imperascora Cabinet
One of the tasks of each Gildamdux is to select a representative to the Imperascora Cabinet, also known as the Advisory Council, which is the modern incarnation of the Conlegorium Commercorum. Nominally, the Merchant Princes are the actual members of the Cabinet, but it is traditional for each to send a representative instead. The choice of representative is always a delicate question; Cabinet activities will consume vast quantities of their time, and representatives are unable to stand for office within the Guild, so it can be a means of removing a strong rival from the field. On the other hand, they are well remunerated, and are often privy to intelligence that can offer allies an advantage. Merchant Princes will generally agree that giving the position to an ally who can be trusted is the ideal solution, but one that is not always available; that can weaken key support by removing a substantial vote from the Guild Floor, or there may be no one that is trusted, at least not that much.
The Cabinet also contains of Aides, Assistants, and Bureaucrats. These are all employees, independent of any form of political appointment, and ineligible to stand for office themselves. The theory is that this makes them incorruptible, though everyone knows better; many may have kindred owning businesses and eligible for office within Guilds, for example, and (of course) anyone is potentially susceptible to bribery.
The Cabinet’s primary task, aside from setting global policies and dealing with inter-guild rivalries, is to select from amongst the Merchant Princes (using the funds made available by their Guilds) one to serve as The Master Trader.
The Master Trader
The Master Trader is appointed for life. This position is the equivalent of King within the Ineodolus Imperascora. The Master Trader’s responsibility is to set long-term policies for the overall betterment of the Ineodolus Imperascora, to arbitrate any disputes between the Guilds, to negotiate treaties, and to appoint ‘diplomats’ to the Embassies of the Realm, empowered to negotiate on behalf of the entire Realm and to represent the interests of Guild members within the other Shared Kingdoms. Internally, he has very little direct power, but exerts considerable indirect authority through the other Kingdoms.
Many of the specifics of the Educational system within the Ineodolus Imperascora have been detailed already, in particular the Apprentice – Journeymen – Masters career path. In fact, all that remains is to detail an extremely rare rank within a Guild, that of Senior Craftsman. This rank is an acknowledgement that every Apprentice ever taken on by a Master has now risen to the rank of Master themselves, and that each of those has successfully elevated an Apprentice to the rank of Master. Since this takes 60 years or more of professional life on the part of the potential Senior Craftsman (excluding his own apprenticeship and most – if not all – of his Journeyman period, another 20-30 years), it can only be conferred on a Trader who is still active within his Guild at the age of 90+.
The position carries with it a stipend of 1% of everything taken in by the Guild or its members; in return for which, the Senior Craftsman is required and expected to advise the Merchant Prince and bring his vast experience to bear on any problems within the Guild.
Some of the following may recapitulate information already provided. That’s because this (and the section that follows it) is an extract from the original briefing material presented to the players, while everything that has preceded this section has been an enlargement apon this and other sources, newly written for this article.
Understanding the structure of the Guilds is essential to unraveling the politics of the Imperascora. Heading each Guild is a Merchant Prince, the guild member who has paid the most for his membership. This places him in line of succession to be the Master Trader of the Realm, their equivalent of The King. With the death of the current Master Trader, the profitability of each of the Merchant Princes is assessed, and the most profitable of their number assumes the vacant office.
The Master Trader controls the law as it pertains to individuals, sets the personal taxation rate, pays the overall expenses of the Realm, and controls the Treasury. He is required to sell all his personal holdings and businesses at a price determined by the profitability of the enterprise before assuming his new position, which he holds for life. His wife and children are entitled to a percentage of the profitability of the Imperascora throughout his reign apon his death, enabling the family to retain rank. The more the realm prospers under his stewardship, the greater his family’s legacy. Immediately apon ascending to the rank of Master Trader, the former Merchant Prince is replaced as the head of his Guild by the number 2 within that Guild.
Collectively, the Merchant Princes form the Advisory Council, together with any specialists and consultants that are hired by the Master Trader on behalf of the Imperascora. However, they are usually too busy with Guild matters to attend to this personally, and appoint a representative to the Council to act in their stead. While the Master Trader is required to brief the Advisory Council on current events, and to listen to their advice, he is not obligated to pursue their recommendations. This state-level Intelligence is a powerful resource for the Merchant Princes, giving them a distinct advantage over the majority of their rivals, and helps to maintain stability within the Imperascora. The Advisory Council has only one power and obligation: should 2/3 of them agree, they can remove the Master Trader from office, declaring him Sicut Mortius (‘As Dead’). The business of the Imperascora is too important to leave in the hands of the Senile, Incompetent or Corrupt!
Each Guild has its own administrative council. The size of this council is determined by the combined wealth of the members’ holdings that are subject to the rulings of the Guild. The title Guild Councilor is more prestigious within the Imperascora than Duke, because Guild Councilors make and break Dukes. Every member of the Guild pays membership fees annually and purchases a license to operate a particular business within a specific location. Membership within the Guild permits a business owner to purchase nominations at the rate of one Nomination per Guilder (gp) (non-refundable). The business owner with the most Nominations becomes the Merchant Prince and head of the council; thereafter, rankings are determined strictly by profitability. The Guild sets the wholesale price levels for all services and products that fall within the Guild’s purview, the price of memberships, the price of licenses, etc. The Guild is required to pay all costs of internal regulation, to subsidize the training and education of members and the children of members (even if that training is within another Guild), and to ensure adequate provision of guild services throughout the Imperascora. The Guild is also responsible for relations with non-Imperascora businesses in their sector of the economy.
Within each region, local guild members form a Chamber Of Commerce. This body appoints one of its number to act as spokesman to the local authorities. The Chamber Of Commerce is permitted to set the retail markup for its members’ products and services, allowing variations on the overall prices set by the Guild Councils for local conditions. However, it is normal for a Chamber Of Commerce to elect an executive council from amongst its membership. These Regional Councilors act as the connection between the Guild administrations and the local members. In areas with sufficient populations, multiple Local Guilds may exist, usually one per economic sector, each of which elects a single representative to the local Chamber Of Commerce.
These Guild Ranks are in addition to the usual peerage ranks (Dukes, Viscounts, etc), which reflect control and dominion over a region or population, as described in the Kingdoms and Cultures Overview.
Nobles & Nobility within the Causa Domasura
Titles in the Ineodolus Imperascora reflect and accompany ownership of property or other wealth-generating resource. Buy a mining concession and the title of Count comes with the purchase. Buy a business, and another title of Count comes with it. However, the titles are automatically downgraded one step every year unless it can be proven to be a profitable enterprise. Nobles are encouraged to seek the highest title possible as the degree of autonomy and authority that comes with the title directly establishes his authority to expand, establish new settlements and businesses, sell concessions, dictate the terms of trade agreements, and lowers his tax rates on the profits he reports. However, it also increases the burden of responsibility on the titleholder and increases his overall taxation expense; there is automatically a natural optimum balance at which his personal profits are maximized, and over time his titles will stabilize.
A stable income is vital, as many licenses and authorities are annual expenses and not one-time payments, and the price of those licenses and authorities are established by Guilds, within which ranking and authority are determined annually by net profits of the relevant operations. A noble can have as much power and authority as he can afford to purchase – but if he overextends himself, he will find himself both short of capital and subject to the decisions of his rivals in ensuing years. Under-claiming simply brings this problem forwards.
At the same time, there are years in which dominance is vital, and years in which it makes little difference. Knowing when it is to your long-term advantage to over-extend or cede control is an essential element of politics in the Imperascora, and fundamentally relates to how well that sector of the economy has performed during the year relative to others, and how well the individual’s holdings have done relative to others within the same sector. This year, it might be more important to control mining licenses than grain prices; next year, salt might be more important than horses. Complicating everything is the self-evident fact that the more one expends on authority, the less one has available to invest in concessions and new businesses and the like. Plots and plans can be short-term, annual, longer, or even requiring decades to come to fruition. The result is a maze of alliances and obligations and authorities. In such an environment, Intelligence is a prized asset, and represents another significant drain on the personal treasuries of the Nobles of the realm.
Village Politics in the Shared Kingdoms
The Ineodolus Imperascora is ubiquitous; almost anywhere there are traders, merchants, and businesses, you will find at least one member of the Traders And Commerce Empire. In most places, they are isolated, a lone representative or a minority, present merely because the Merchant Princes like to know what any potential customer – or rival – is up to; but with prosperity and a growing population, their numbers swell. As they amass authority, it becomes much harder for unaligned independents to keep the Ineodolus Imperascora at arms length; some will capitulate, others will seek the advantages of Associate Citizenship. The Ineodolus Imperascora makes it easy to join and relatively painless to remain a member. The traders like to have eyes and ears everywhere, and may even subsidize businessmen who resettle into a less prosperous area – or so rumor has it.
Each village has a council to settle local disputes and deal with minor legal matters; they will usually appoint one or two local officials for the purpose, and may maintain a few civic structures (a jail, council chambers – which often double as a meeting & community hall – common green, and, the like). Initially, the dominant regional political affiliation will dominate the appointment of members to this body – in the Verus Fidesora, faith is likely to be the pervading principle, for example. As the urban population grows, the merchants and their guilds grow from a minority to a substantial part of the local council – they represent those with money, after all, and that always makes a difference. In theory, when the majority of council positions are held by merchants who are citizens of the Ineodolus Imperascora, the allegiance of the village will switch. Within the heartland of other Kingdoms, the Commerce Empire does not press this point; in more cosmopolitan areas they can and do. They look forward to the day when every urban centre is under their control, either overt or covert.
Such switching of village allegiances is permitted by the Shared Kingdoms as a better alternative to Civil War. Experience has shown that the Merchants usually override local passions with hard mercantile practicality – after a few years dominated by the merchants, they have made so many unpopular decisions that they are thrown out at the next local council elections, regardless of how much money they might have behind them, and some other group takes their place (most of the time, this will be a restoration of the previous regional affiliation).
The members of the Shared Kingdoms have grown used to the authority over any given minor population centre switching between them from time to time; in the long run, it tends to even out.
None of them have given any thought to the possibility of the Commerce Empire deliberately holding back until something important (to them) comes up – within a year, they could (effectively) seize almost total control of the Shared Kingdoms. Would they give it back afterwards? Maybe, maybe not. It would require almost complete cooperation between the Guilds, something that is likely to happen three days after Hell freezes over, or so the other Kingdoms think…
The Ineodolus Imperascora has a fixed Income Tax of 30%. If the wealthy cannot change the tax rate – and the Merchant Princes try every now and then, only to be blocked by the Master Trader, who controls this income – then their only recourse is to change the definition of what is considered Income. So far, few initiatives in this direction have been successful, again because they are blocked by the Master Trader; but a small concession in this direction is occasionally politically astute (and can always be taken back, later).
The overall shape of the area dominated by the Ineodolus Imperascora is a long, elongated playing-card diamond on it’s side. In it’s northern reaches the terrain is like northern France; it’s Western side is top-quality farmland; to the east, it contains hilly terrain and mountains, as well as coastland and a number of small islands; and to the south there is forest, swamp, semi-tropical savannah, some tropical swamp, and a fringe of jungle. They really do have something of just about everything.
The westernmost point runs east-west from the Capitas Duodiem along the Via Negotarentur (Trade Road) (pronounced Neg-Oh-Sha-Rent-Ur) to the Lihumen Negotarenture Transitum (Stony River Trade Bridge), where the road crosses the Lihume Lapillos (Stony River). That river continues south, bisecting the Realm until it reaches the border of the Longex Dextora just west of the Iriduserde Foliumprasi
It is worth noting four things that are wrong with this overall picture of the borders of the Realm:
- The Thunderhell belongs to anyone stupid enough or resilient enough to live there, and borders are a cartographic indulgence in wishful thinking.
- There is a large chunk missing from the northern border which contains Parumveneaora (The Vale Of Dreams) and Silvunduzora, (The Deep Hollows), home to the Gnomes and Dwarves, respectively. NB: Dwarvish claims extend in pockets all the way up the Montis Levitasvirgo (Thunder Mountains) and into the Montis Nixcumulum (Snowcapped Mountains).
- While the Ineodolus Imperascora claims the river and its vital trade passage, it has a bite taken out of it’s southern border for the Sylvarnpluprasi
(The Sylvan Grange), home of the Dryads, and part of Congressus Feyunctusora (The United Association of Fey).
- The Ineodolus Imperascora lay claim to the coastal fringes running for several leagues to the north of this border, on the coastal side of the Montis Levitasvirgo mountain range, but have not placed the settlements presumed to be there any any map disseminated to outsiders. How fair-flung is the true Realm? On the Merchant Princes and Master Trader really know, and they aren’t talking – at least, not in public.
The capital city of the Shared Kingdoms is obviously one of the most notable of the neighboring realms adjacent to the Ineodolus Imperascora, but they share borders with no less than ten of the Shared Kingdoms – and are within easy travel of an eleventh. Listing them is like listing a Political who’s who. In fact, the only realm not within easy reach of the Guilds is Behr Yuralvus!
The highest population density is located to the west of the Realm, but the differences are slight. Only on the Northeastern fringes is there any significant reduction in population density – as always, the Thunderhell is an unhappy place to live. It should also be noted that the Ineodolus Imperascora is the most dispersed of the members of the Shared Kingdoms, with (as noted earlier) citizens in virtually every community.
From A PC Perspective
PCs should love the Ineodolus Imperascora. If it’s made, they can buy it there; if it’s for sale, someone will probably buy it there. The politics are almost as Byzantine as anywhere else in the Shared Kingdoms, there is always employment on offer, and joining the Adventurer’s Guild is a certain ticket to eventual Noble Title. What’s more, the general risks of misappropriation of one’s property and incidental hazards to one’s health are generally lower than anywhere else in the Shared Kingdoms – because both are bad for business. Getting on the wrong side of a Merchant Prince, or caught in the wheels of some plot or other is always a danger, however. In general, it presents a safer base of operations than the Causa Domasura (though one with fewer opportunities).
From A GMs Perspective
It’s been said that Commerce is the lifeblood of any Society. If that’s true then the Ineodolus Imperascora is at least half of the beating heart of the Shared Kingdoms – but it’s a heart muscle with sporadic internal problems and the ability at any time to seize control of the entire organism, spreading strife and discord in all directions. I’ve deliberately avoided talking about the current Merchant Princes or the Master Trader; the internal structure of the society leave the former group subject to change without notice, while any decisions as to the latter are a vital choice that can radically alter the scope of any campaign containing this Realm or the Shared Kingdoms in General. A relatively young and aggressive Master Trader will be in an expansionist mode, capable of arousing the anger of any number of potential enemies from both within the Shared Kingdoms and without; an especially cunning and deceptive one will be enmeshed up to his eyebrows in the internal politics of other members of the Shared Nations; while an older one might be wise, or beginning to lose his grasp on power, or both, which will focus political attention inwards – leaving scope for other members to attempt to reclaim power lost when the Commerce Empire was last feeling expansionist. Any of these make for interesting adventuring. On top of that, you have the potential for some massive public crisis leading the Master Trader to seize power throughout the Shared Kingdoms for the good of all (as he sees it) – an entire campaign could be built around this incident, the resolution of the crisis, and the subsequent attempts to restore independence to the rest of the Shared Kingdoms – not to mention imposing some sort of limits to prevent this from happening again. Throw in the possibility that the Master Trader is flat-out wrong in his intended approach to the problem, and put the PCs squarely in the cross-hairs, and you have the potential for all sorts of fun.
The Language Relationships Table: The Rare Languages
There are 26 spoken languages in Shards Of Divinity, divided into four groups: Common, Unusual, Rare, and Obscure. As mentioned in the previous part of this series, if a character has more ranks in a language than its relatedness relative to the language he is trying to speak, he gains a +1 synergy bonus on his attempts to use the language.
For example, an elf would have Elvish (aka Elven) as his native language. If he was trying to speak Dwarven, he would get +1 if he had 8 ranks in his native language – or if he had 4 ranks in Draconian, Giant, or Terran, or 6 ranks in Trade Tongue or Abyssal or… well, the list goes on. He can qualify for multiple +1 bonuses if he meets multiple targets but only one per row on the chart – so he might get +1 for 4 ranks in Giant, +1 for 6 ranks in Trade Tongue, and +1 for 8 ranks in Elvish.
Twenty-six languages won’t fit all in one reasonable-length table, even though that’s how they were presented in the original house rules, so they have been broken down into a series of smaller tanbles. In this part of the series, I’m going to look at the Rare Languages. Note that this table mentions languages that are currently not known to exist in the campaign world. Following the table are descriptions of the languages and how to simulate them.
|2 ranks||City-State, Celestial|
|4 ranks||Original, Draconic|
|6 ranks||Kingdom, Gypsy, Abyssal, Infernal|
|8 ranks||Trade Tongue, Sylvan, Orc, Old Kingdom, Elvish, Draconian|
|10 ranks||Druidic, Terran, Gnoll, Halfling, Undercommon, Dwarven|
|12 ranks||Aquan, Ignan, Goblin, Tribal, Gnome|
|2 ranks||Gypsy, Elvish, Sylvan, Aquan, Old Kingdom|
|4 ranks||Halfling, City-State, Draconic|
|6 ranks||Undercommon, Gnome, Trade Tongue, Original|
|8 ranks||Kingdom, Draconian, Celestial, Orc, Giant, Tribal, Pious|
|10 ranks||Goblin, Dwarven, Terran, Abyssal, Ignan|
|12 ranks||Infernal, Gnoll|
|4 ranks||Gypsy, Draconic, Tribal, Pious|
|6 ranks||Old Kingdom, Sylvan, Goblin, Orc, Giant|
|8 ranks||Elvish, Draconian, Dwarven, Celestial, Ignan, Gnoll, Trade Tongue|
|10 ranks||Terran, Abyssal, Infernal, Aquan, Druidic, Kingdom, Gnome|
|Giant||2 ranks||Dwarven, Ignan|
|4 ranks||Terran, Infernal, Gnoll, Tribal, Orc, Gnome|
|6 ranks||Goblin, City-State, Sylvan, Undercommon, Celestial, Draconian|
|8 ranks||Abyssal, Halfling, Trade Tongue, Original, Elvish, Draconic|
|10 ranks||Kingdom, Pious, Druidic, Gypsy, Aquan|
|12 ranks||Old Kingdom|
|Orc (by Tribe)||2 ranks||Orc (any other Tribe), Giant, Draconic|
|4 ranks||Goblin, Tribal, Gnome, Dwarven, Ignan|
|6 ranks||Gnoll, Sylvan, Elvish, Draconian, Infernal, Original, City-State|
|8 ranks||Halfling, Celestial, Abyssal, Terran|
|10 ranks||Undercommon, Gypsy, Druidic, Trade Tongue, Kingdom, Pious, Aquan|
|12 ranks||Old Kingdom|
|Goblin||2 ranks||Gnoll, Orc|
|4 ranks||Tribal, Giant, Infernal, Draconic|
|6 ranks||Gnome, Ignan, Celestial, Dwarven, City-State|
|8 ranks||Abyssal, Terran, Draconian, Elvish, Sylvan, Original|
|10 ranks||Undercommon, Gypsy, Pious, Halfling|
|12 ranks||Aquan, Druidic, Old Kingdom, Kingdom, Trade Tongue|
|Draconian||2 ranks||Draconic, Dwarven, Abyssal|
|4 ranks||Terran, Infernal, Celestial, Ignan|
|6 ranks||Orc, Elvish, Undercommon, Original, Giant|
|8 ranks||Gnoll, Trade Tongue, Pious|
|10 ranks||Sylvan, Aquan, Druidic, Gypsy, City-State, Old Kingdom, Gnome, Tribal, Goblin|
|Gnoll||2 ranks||Infernal, Giant|
|4 ranks||Goblin, Dwarven, Celestial|
|6 ranks||Orc, Tribal, Gnome, Ignan, Abyssal, Terran, Draconic|
|8 ranks||Draconian, Undercommon, Sylvan, City-State, Pious|
|10 ranks||Elvish, Original, Halfling, Trade Tongue|
|12 ranks||Old Kingdom, Kingdom, Gypsy, Druidic, Aquan|
Language Descriptions & Notes: The Rare Languages
The following language descriptions frequently mention rendering text using particular fonts that I have in my collection. Some of these may have unrestricted licenses, some may be free only for non-commercial use, and a few may even have come with collections or software that is only available to paying customers. In the seventh section on Languages,, I’ll include a brief sample of text rendered into each language and displayed using the relevant font. For now, all that really needs to be noted is that I have chosen fonts that ‘look right’ for the language as I envisaged it for this campaign.
Similarly, a number of modified modern languages have been used as a shortcut for simulating the various fantasy tongues. The goal was not to create a genuine language, not even to be consistent, but simply to create an appropriately non-English “sound” with the right sort of accents and noises. I hope no speaker of any named language takes offense – or undue compliment – from the use of their native tongue. Such usage says nothing about the language itself, and even less about the people who actually use it; at most it is a commentary on the sounds and flow of syllables that result to English-speaking ears.
Some of the languages fall into multiple categories. While it might be redundant, each language description is included in all relevant categories.
The first release of the Shards Of Divinity House Rules asserted that “Druids do not have a separate language’. Further examination of the campaign concepts have shown that this is both true and misleading; there IS a language called “Druidic”, but it is NOT a language that can be used to communicate effectively with anyone else that knows the language. Rather, it is a learned ability to communicate with nature, to hear what the surroundings have to say about the weather that is coming, the local conditions, any threats within the region, any sites with peculiarities nearby, where the nearest spring is, and so on. It is also employed to tell the spirits of nature that inhabit every geographic feature, that shelter and nurture every species of animal and plant, that bring the rain and the storms and the weather, exactly what the Druid would like them to do. They may not listen (they often don’t) and may not answer the request in a timely fashion (they don’t have the same concept of time as mortals, but neither do Druids, so that’s all right).
This “Druidic” language has evolved from little bits of a number of different languages, predominantly Elvish and Sylvan, but with a slight tinge of more human languages such as Gypsy and Old Kingdom. Each Druid’s Circle – and, in fact, each Druid – develops his own Druid’s Tongue. As initiates, this essentially comprises parts of the lowest common denominator amongst the “Druidic” of the Druid’s Circle that has accepted the initiate; as a character grows in understanding, so his version of “Druidic” becomes more and more unique, and more and more dedicated to the terrain in which he spends most of his time. It also, therefore, becomes less and less useful generically, ie when the Druid is outside his own terrain. Druids who adventure will often need to select companion species to accompany him; while they may be useful for other reasons, the dominant reason for their presence is to translate the Druid’s requests into the local dialect. Of course, the less native they are to the local environment, the less help they can be.
Druidic is considered an Unusual language for Druids, a Rare language for Gypsies, Elves & Fey, and an Obscure language for all others.
Translating into Druidic is an ‘entertaining’ exercise. Extract and translate proper nouns other than animal and plant species using a random choice of Sylvan, Elvish, or Kingdom. Translate the remaining nouns into sounds and/or actions that are characteristic of the creature. Reformat the rest of the text using Alphabet Of The Magi – then interpret loosely into animal noises, weather sound effects, hand gestures, and anything else that comes to mind.
There is no written form of this ‘Language’.
Legend holds that there were once 9 (or eleven, or twelve) human families or tribes living in Paradise, and each had their own language. The lingua franca that emerged between these nine is now known as “Old Kingdom”, while the long-dead languages of each family are known collectively as City-State.
To simulate “Old Kingdom”, write text with an ‘old-world’ phrasing, then translate as shown below:
- Voorst (First) – Dutch
- Segundo (Second) – Portuguese
- Eulogmuda¹ (Blessed) – Greek
- Hato (Herder) – Spanish
- Berg (Mountain) – Swedish
- Dalen (Valley) – Danish
- Joki (River) – Finnish
- Phasmatis (Tower) – Latin
- Vara (Last) – Icelandic²
¹ literal translation, letter by letter, from the Greek translation of the meaning, based on the names of the letters. The original is as shown to the right.
² choose the result with the fewest non-standard-English characters. Render all non-standard characters as their visual English equivalent.
Giants once dominated many of the other races, It was when they attempted (and failed) to conquer Dwarves that they learned to write, and that in turn shaped and altered their language.
Translating text into Giant is best simulated by first translating it into Russian, using German for any terms that do not translate, with Hungarian for a third choice. The written form of the language can be achieved by rendering the result using Czar (note that italic and bold versions are also provided).
When the Orcish tribes broke free of the domination of the Giants they retained much of the Giant language, but this quickly fragmented as any cohesion between them broke down. Each tribe now has it’s own dialect, extremely divergent from the original, which are collectively known as Orc, or Orcish. This makes communications with any specific tribe or individual extremely touchy; what might be a compliment to one tribe may be an insult in another.
Spoken Orcish is best rendered by first writing the text in English, randomly inverting the meaning of a few words here and there, translating the results into Hungarian, with Russian and then German as secondary and tertiary choices, removing all the spaces and inserting new ones after every one or two syllables. The exception is proper nouns, which have hyphens inserted instead of spaces.
Written Orcish is achieved the same way, but with the final text rendered into Czar.
Where Orcs were dominated by Giants, Goblins were subjected to the intimidation of Gnolls early in their civilization’s history. Once the Orcs broke free of Giant subjugation, the Giants attempted to replace their former subjects by conquest of the Gnolls, into whose territory they had been driven by the Dwarves. There had been constant border skirmishes between the two groups in the past, now it became a full war – but a war fought primarily by proxy, as each group threw their subjugated races against each other, until the Orcs rebelled against the Giant yoke. The Giants were driven completely out of their former territories by Orc death-squads who were completely satisfied to trade their lives for another kilometer of territorial gain. Twenty orc lives were traded for every Giant slain – which was a net victory for the Orcs.
Having been forced into the Gnoll territories, the Giants did their best to carve out their own territories, but were no match for the cunning and cruelty of the Gnolls, and were eventually forced further north into the frozen wastes. But they did enough damage to the Gnoll gangs that the Goblins were able to mount an insurrection against their masters. The Orcish tribes then began to seek to dominate the Goblins in much the same way as they had been dominated, but the Goblins were not eager to trade one set of masters for another. Fortunately for them, some of the human communities that rose following the eviction from Paradise made the unwise choice of settling in territories adjacent to both, and a two-way conflict became a three-way political minefield of shifting loyalties, temporary alliances.
The Goblin language reflects this history in a number of ways. Fundamentally, it derives from Gnoll, but with infusions of second-hand Giant from both Orcs and Gnolls, and with a little Orcish thrown in directly by their enemies. It might have been expected that the Human tribes might have further contaminated the Goblin tongue, but if anything the flow of dialect has been in the other direction, as vulnerable human Tribes were subjugated by the relatively-unified Goblins, who imposed their language.
Translating text into Goblin is best simulated by first translating it into Hungarian, using German for any terms that do not translate, with phonetically-interpreted Russian for a third choice. The written form of the language can be achieved by rendering the result using Czar.
This is the dialect of Draconic spoken by Troglodytes, Lizardfolk, and Kobolds. It is actually a blending of Draconic, Dwarven, and something else, with the latter contaminating the former. Religious authorities make much of the purported resemblance of the alleged language of Demons and the “Something Else” of Draconian, but no-one has any proof of this alleged language’s existence beyond citations in religious texts relating to cases of demonic possession and exorcism. Note that for the bulk of the population, the “something else” is not even known to exist, let alone the church’s ‘explanation’ of it (Knowledge: religion 15 ranks required).
To translate into Draconian, follow the procedure for Dwarven for a random selection of words (approximately 1 in 6). Translate all remaining verbs and relationship terms into Greek, phoneticise, and then reverse the sequence of syllables. Then employ the procedure given for Draconic for the rest.
To render Draconian, display the resulting text in Autorealm Phoenician without spaces between words except on either side of a Proper Noun, and without other punctuation except at the end of a complete passage of text.
Where the language of the Gnolls originated, no-one knows. It uses Giant, backwards, for adjectives and verbs, and some other tongue for anything else. Religious authorities make much of the purported similarities between the alleged language of Devils and the ‘Something Else”, but no-one has any proof of this alleged language’s existence beyond dreams and hallucinations and babbled statements uttered under torture, which are assigned meaning purely because that’s what the churches believe the individual was saying at the time. Scholars ridicule this as a circular arguement – the language is that of Devils because the church’s translations of what has been said in that tongue, based on the assumption that the language is that of Devils, is defined by the church as inherently evil, and therefore Devilish. However, it is a fact that the “something else” presents inherent mechanical difficulties of pronunciation for knolls and is obviously not native to them. Note that for the bulk of the population, the “something else” is not even known to exist, let alone the church’s explanation of it (Knowledge: Religion 20 ranks required).
To translate into Gnoll, translate the adjectives and verbs into Giant, then spell them backwards. Translate everything else into Filipino, then modify it as per the Naming rules for Gnomes. Remove all spaces and punctuation, then insert new spaces after selected consonants in the sequence 2,5,3,4, repeat.
To render Gnoll text, display the resulting text in Autorealm Futhark.
This is a “perversion” of Elvish, according to the Elves, that is spoken only by Drow and a few subterranean races that they have manipulated into attacking other species.
Undercommon is considered Unusual for Elves, Dwarves, and Demons and Obscure for all others.
To translate into Undercommon, first translate into Elvish as per the notes on Elvish Names and then apply the following transformations: replace c with z, replace ch with gh, replace p with k, and q with t. Then tweak for a flowing pronunciation.
To render Undercommon text, display the result using the appropriate Elvish variant by tongue.
Simulating an unreal language
As promised, starting with this part of the series, I’ll be sharing tips and tricks for using the language simulation techniques described earlier in this series.
The key principle to the simulation of a language is being able to recognize the dominant ‘flavor’ of the language and how to manipulate it to achieve the flavor that you want. For example, here’s a small passage from earlier within article in plain English:
Each of the three petitioned the King of one particular city-state to have the standard length changed to accommodate their requirements; the smiths viewed this as an attack on their autonomy. The King responded by locking the representatives all four in a room to sort the problem out. If the negotiators had been different people, the outcome would have radically changed the course of history within the future Shared Kingdoms; but agreement to implement three different standards was quickly achieved, and the negotiators moved on to talk about other subjects and discovered many areas of common interest.
And here’s the same block of text with every vowel doubled, and every consonant shifted one step later in the alphabet. To be consistent with English usage, a ‘p’ becomes a ‘qu’. I’ve then reduced excessively long strings of vowels and split any excessively long words in two:
Eadj oog vjee vjsee queviviopef vjee liiph oog oopee quaasvidumas divz-tvave voo jawee vjee tvapfasf meephvj djaapheef voo aaddoon noofaavee vjeeis seeruisee neepvt; vjee tnivjt wiexeef vjiit aat aap aavvaadl oop vjeeiis auvoo poonz. Vjee liiph seetquoo pfeef cz moodliph vjee seequseet eepvaa viweet aamm gous ip aa son voo toosv vjee qusoo cmeen ouv. Tig vjee peehoo viavoost jaaf cep figgeeseepv queoqumee, vjee ouvdoonee xoumf jaawee saafidaammz djaapheef vjee doustee oog jitvoosz xivjip vjee guuvuusee tjaaseef liiphfoont; cuuv aahseeneepv voo inqumee neepv vjsee fiiggeeseepv tvaapfaasft xaat ruidlmz aadjieweef, aapf vjee peehoov iavoost nooweef oop voo vaaml aacouv oovjees tuckeedvt aapf fiitdoo weeseef naapz aaseat oog doonnoop ipveeseetv.
This goes so far that the resulting text is completely unrecognizable – and almost completely unpronounceable. Each language has “letter pairs” that dominate words within the language; change a few of the most common ones to something else (choosing something less arbitrary than a simple rightward shift) and you completely change the character of the language. For Japanese, for example, I would start with ku, so, ka, and wa. These might not be enough to completely change the character of the language from an “Asian sounding” language, but they make a good start.
A key technique is to start with a sample of text to be converted; make your initially planned changes and then decide what to do with any remaining text. This is especially true if you are basing it on English and not on some internet translation.
Another important point is to consider the usage and biology of the creatures in question. Even the length of the tongue can have a major influence – you don’t want to risk biting it in ordinary or excited conversation! Read a few sentences to yourself as though you were going to speak them aloud and note how your mouth and tongue move; then apply a different movement. A short tongue might have trouble with “l” sounds, sounding them more as an “er” sound, for example.
I make it a point to try and get the language unrecognizable in origin simply so that I don’t offend anyone who happens to speak the unmodified language.
More tips next time!
Next: A much smaller (I hope) post on the Longex Dextora (The Hinterlands); The Obscure Languages; And more on how to choose modifying adjustments to your source language.
- The Non-Human Languages Generator
- The Shared Kingdoms: A Premise from the Shards Of Divinity campaign
- Bher Yuralvus, The Home Of The Endless Library
- Causa Domasura, The Home Of Reason
- Therassus Amora, The Centre Of Attraction
- The Ineodolus Imperascora (The Traders And Commerce Empire)
- The Longex Dextora (The Hinterlands)